Partners of new mums with mental illness are set to get targeted support on the NHS
New and expectant fathers will be offered mental health checks and treatment under “radical action” to support families, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens announced this week.
The partners of pregnant women and new mothers who are themselves suffering from anxiety, depression or more severe disorders such as psychosis will be automatically offered a “comprehensive mental health assessment” and signposted to professional support if needed.
Stevens said it will mean that partners of expectant and new mothers who are seriously unwell are not left to suffer in silence with mental health issues. They will be offered a range of help such as peer support, behavioural couples therapy sessions and other family and parenting interventions in specialist community perinatal mental health settings, or referred to a leading psychological talking therapy programme.
“At what should be one of the happiest moments of our lives, caring for a partner suffering mental ill health when a new baby arrives is a difficult and often lonely experience,” said Stevens.
“These days dads and partners are rightly expected to be more hands on and NHS mental health services also need to step up and support families at times of extreme stress and anxiety.”
There is growing evidence of the mental health risk new and expectant fathers face. In the first six months after a baby’s birth, estimates put the prevalence rates of anxiety and depression symptoms in men at up to one in 10, while one in five women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy and the first year after birth.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, added: “The NHS has made huge strides forward in improving mental health care for new mums and ensuring their partners are properly supported too is the next logical step.
The NHS has made huge strides forward in improving mental health care for new mums and ensuring their partners are properly supported too is the next logical step
“We want to give every family the best possible start in life and this will help do that.”
The project is part of a forthcoming NHS long-term plan, which will also expand services to help pregnant women and new mothers.